Balls Deep in Self-Publishing: Creating your own Kindle-ready mobi file (Part 1)

I get a lot of inquiries over at Quantum Formatting about making mobi files for authors, so they can give out copies to reviewers, beta readers, etc. While it’s always nice to simply gift a copy through Amazon (and get a little back with the royalty) or use a free coupon on Smashwords, a lot of reviewers will want the book sent to them in a format they can put right on their Kindles (or other e-reader) without a lot of mucking about.

There are three really easy ways to create a mobi (Mobipocket) file for your own personal use.

The first is to download a copy from Smashwords. It won’t have any DRM (either proprietary or copy-protection), but it will have the old “Published on Smashwords” notification in the indicia, and whatever idiosyncracies the “meat grinder” gave it. One other disadvantage of this method is that a person cannot use “Send to Kindle” for a mobi file from Smashwords. At least it never works for me, and it only ever doesn’t work with Smashwords files.

(By the way, if you don’t have Send to Kindle, go download it now. It’s a very useful way to move books to your various Kindle devices.)

Nothing wrong with that, but the other two methods, at least to me, give the author much more control over the final look of the book they are sending to be reviewed or read by someone special.

The second way to convert a file will require the following:

  • A copy of your book manuscript in Word format (and, of course, a copy of Microsoft Word).
  • Download and install Kindle Previewer from Amazon.

Step 1:  Open up your document in Word.  If your file does NOT have a picture of your book’s cover at the beginning, add it now. Try to use the best quality but most compressed picture of the cover you have. Save the file as you normally would, using a file name to specify that it has the cover within.

convert001Click the Office button in the upper left hand corner and choose “Save As”.  In the pull-down menu under the file name bar in the next window, choose “Webpage, filtered.”

Please note that this will change some of the formatting of your book. Usually, the margin may move a bit to the left, and any “Small Caps” fonts will become “All Caps” instead. Nothing too traumatic, if you’ve formatted your book properly at the start.

Step 2:  Start Kindle Previewer. Choose “Open book” and choose the new HTML file you just created. It often may take a couple minutes to compile.

HINT: Make sure your book’s file is not open in Word at the same time. If it is, it will fail to compile.

After it’s done, you WILL get a WARNING! Don’t get upset about that. 99% of the time, it will look like this when you expand it to get the details:

The warning is “Cover not specified”.  Normally Kindlegen (the program that is Kindle Previewer) would be grabbing the cover from the image you uploaded to Amazon’s KDP. You don’t have that here. And since we’ve already added the cover, we know it’s there. So we can ignore this error. If there’s anything else there noted as a warning (and I’ve never seen anything yet), then it’d be time to ask around or head to the Kindle Forums with the exact wording of the warning.

Step 3:  Double check your book using the various device options. You can see how your book will look on a Kindle, a Fire or an iOS app with the various options under the “Device” heading on the upper toolbar. Click through them and make sure everything looks hunky-dory – there will often be little glitches between devices on the same book; especially if you have a lot of lists (ordered or unordered). And the program often screws up the display. Dunno why. But, no matter, this is the most reliable way to convert: It will reliably make your mobi file look just like your Word document.  As long as your formatting is consistent, it should be fine, and no one’s going to hold a dropped cap or a single out-of-line indent against you, unless they are seriously deranged.

Step 4: Kindle Previewer saves the new file as in the mobi it created. Using Windows Explorer, go to the folder that you originally saved the HTML copy of your book in. You’ll notice a new folder there with the file name to it (i.e., “converted-The Science Fiction Quiz Book KDP-FINAL-02.htm”). If you converted the file more than once, after say editing a mistake you saw while looking at it in the Previewer, there will be a copy of each conversion, delineated by a date stamp (“The Science Fiction Quiz Book”). Just pick the newest one, rename it however you’d like, and that’s the file you can send to your reviewers and readers.

Next time in Balls Deep in Self-Publishing, we look at the third way to make a mobi file, using the software that the format was named for, Mobipocket Creator.

The Five Star Trivia Quiz Book by Rich MeyerThe first volume of the Five Star Trivia Quiz Book series is now available on Amazon and Createspace!

600 trivia questions (and answers) about pretty much anything and everything – movies, comics, politics, history, music, pop culture, TV, radio, toys – hours of family-friendly fun for everyone!

Available on and




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